Giving Compass’ Take:
• At Miami Dade College, there is a collective effort to encourage everyone’s individualistic sense of agency and support shared responsibility of creating change.
• How does empathy, reflection, and closing the gap between students and staff, build agency? How can donors support these strategies?
• Read about embedding changemaking into higher education.
Ashoka’s call for a “world in which everyone is a changemaker” might seem straightforward: to thrive in these times of exponential change, our students must play engaged roles in how the landscape is shifting around them. For them to take action in building more equitable and sustainable communities—and to avoid being left behind—they need to believe that change is possible and that they have a critical and active role in creating it.
But how does this mental model of changemaking agency develop in each of us? Can one just will it into existence? In too many of our communities, many hear messages that they don’t matter, they have no power, and they can’t (or won’t) be heard. Can it be simply self-determination that transforms us into changemakers?
At Miami Dade College, we don’t think so. At its core, “changemaking” is a collective task that requires a shared sense of responsibility. It requires mutual action that can help even those farthest from the proverbial table to step into the collective work of changemaking. Living out our collective responsibility in changemaking means respecting and encouraging each individual’s power of agency as they manifest it, in their own way and on their own time. If we don’t see and accept this as a shared responsibility, then we risk placing the burden of changemaking only on those most impacted by societal structures of oppression, scarcity, and voiceless-ness. In other words, becoming a changemaker is not a solo act, but a very social one.
For this reason, changemaking pushes us to exercise our abilities of empathy and reflection. In listening deeply, we come closer to understanding how experiences shape our emotions and perceptions of “the other,” and through reflection we come to examine how our beliefs and actions may intentionally or unintentionally contribute to their realities. In practicing empathy and reflection as changemakers, we contribute to a cycle that can then perpetuate additional change by engaging others in processes that empower us all to act.
Read the full article about building individual agency by Sandra LaFleur at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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